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State softball: E/SWC places second in Class A

Reacting with joy after a three-run seventh inning home run by teammate Gabby Buckridge, the Edgerton/Southwest Christian softball team returns to the dugout after a celebration at home plate. A late comeback didn't make it all the way and E/SWC lost the Class A state championship to New York Mills, 9-6. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)1 / 2
Edgerton/Southwest Christian seniors display the state Class A second-place trophy Friday afternoon at Caswell Park in North Mankato. (Doug Wolter/The Globe)2 / 2

NORTH MANKATO -- If you’re an Edgerton/Southwest Christian fan, there’s every reason to believe that your Flying Dutchmen didn’t lose the Minnesota state Class A championship Friday afternoon. Rather, they just ran out of innings.

New York Mills won its second consecutive state softball title -- and second in a row over E/SWC -- with a 9-6 victory at Caswell Park in North Mankato. The Eagles took advantage of a shaky Dutchmen squad to score five runs in the first two innings and add three more in the top of the fourth for an 8-0 lead. Though they won, E/SWC made the repeating state champs quite nervous in the bottom of the seventh inning by scoring five runs highlighted by a dramatic Gabby Buckridge three-run home run.

“We just always keep fighting. We knew we were down, but even though we were down, we still didn’t think that we couldn’t come back,” said second baseman Liz Prins. “We come in every day and we play hard no matter what. We have the mentality that we can do whatever we set our minds to do.”

After falling behind early, said slugging third baseman Chynna Berning, the Dutch wanted to chip away.

“We were trying to get a couple back every inning. To get all of ‘em at once, that’s kinda hard,” she said.

Edgerton/Southwest Christian, which won the state championship in 2016 and placed second in 2017, now has placed second for a second year in a row. That’s still an excellent record -- in the top two for three consecutive seasons. But it wasn’t what head coach Andrew Fleischman and the Flying Dutchmen wanted this year.

Fleischman said on Thursday night, after his team beat New Ulm Cathedral 5-1 to advance to the title game, that he thought his team was a little tight in last year’s championship bout against New York Mills. He wanted them to be looser this time, and ready to have fun.

But the Dutchmen were tight again on Friday. An error allowed NYM’s first run to score in the top of the first inning, and the Dutch seemed confused on defense for the entire inning. Then in the second inning NYM scored three more on three quick hits. One run scored, however, on another error when an ill-advised throw to second base went into centerfield.

The Flying Dutchmen needed to regroup.

But instead, the Eagles scored three more times in the fourth to take a 9-0 lead. A pair of well-placed bunts went for hits, furthering the damage.

E/SWC got a run in the bottom of the fourth after singles by Berning and Prins and a two-out line drive RBI single by Jasmine Jensen.

New York Mills got a run back in the seventh. But the Dutchmen wouldn’t die, scoring twice even before Buckridge slammed a pitch over the right-centerfield fence to make the score 9-6. The Edgerton crowd went wild, and the players began to believe they could come back all the way in their last at-bat. New York Mills head coach Bryan Dunrud gathered his team around him at the pitcher’s circle and regrouped. They escaped further damage, relieved as much as overjoyed to win the Class A crown.

The Flying Dutchmen, after receiving their second-place trophy, seemed to take the loss in stride.

“Our start wasn’t the way we wanted to start it,” said lead-off hitter Jessa Nibbelink, who along with Buckridge and pitcher Sierra Van Dyke, was named to the Class A All-Tournament team. “We’ve been really hot with the bats lately. (Coach told us to) have fun, play loose. And just do the little things right.”

“We told ourselves we weren’t going to do it again (be flat). We were going to come out. And we still (played tight). We just ran out of innings,” said Berning.

Van Dyke started her third consecutive game of the tournament on Friday and went the distance, allowing 16 hits. She didn’t walk a batter and struck out two. Rhiana Roberts pitched a complete game for New York Mills, allowing 10 hits , walking one and striking out six.

New York Mills 230 300 1 -- 9 16 1E/SWC 000 100 5 -- 6 10 2
Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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